The Obamacare Mess

Obamacare-Down

 

Let’s face it, a lot of Americans don’t want health insurance. They want to gamble on their health. Sandra and I knew someone who wouldn’t go to the doctor even though she had Medicare. She didn’t feel sick so why would she see a doctor, she said. She wasn’t that old, and she certainly seemed strong and healthy.

She’s gone now. We miss her. A lot. We wish she had gone to see a doctor before it was too late.

A lot of people. mostly the young and robust, share this view. Why do they need health insurance? They don’t feel sick.

That’s the root cause of Obamacare’s unpopularity. For the vast health insurance program to work, everybody must pay into it. And the law makes that compulsory. A lot of young, healthy people resent it.

However, the law also provides federal subsidies for anybody who doesn’t have enough money to afford the premiums.

At least that’s what President Obama intended.

But Republicans insist that’s no what the law says. They claim federal subsidies apply only in states that have set up health insurance exchanges in accordance with the law. In states that rejected Obamacare – read that as red states – federal subsidies are illegal, the Republicans say.

And because of all the writing and rewriting that finally produced the voluminous Affordable Care Act, the wording does leave room for argument.

The health-care law says people qualify for tax credits when they buy insurance on online exchanges “established by the state.” And only 14 states have set up their own exchanges. In the other states, it’s the federal government that runs the exchanges.

The US Supreme Court is about to hear the Republicans’ arguments.

The justices are considering an appeal that would outlaw federal health care subsidies in the 36 states  that refused to set up Obamacare exchanges.

A decision is expected by Monday – the day before the midterm elections.

It’s a decision that will have massive repercussions. Writing in Bloomberg News today, Greg Stohr explains:

The tax credits have implications well beyond the 4.6 million people who receive them in those states. A high court decision against the administration would have ripple effects, undercutting other parts of the Affordable Care Act and potentially destabilizing insurance markets across the nation.

With the  millions now covered by Obamacare, you can imagine the chaos the justices would cause by striking down one of its core provisions.

According to the Bloomberg article, it would mean that more than half of the 7.3 million people who have bought Obamacare policies aren’t entitled to the subsidies they are receiving, for one thing.

What the ultra-conservative Supreme Court will do is anyone’s guess, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they sabotage the law.

Click for the Bloomberg article.

 

The Ebola Bully

Kaci Hickox

In this mortal world, we get sick. That’s the way it goes. There are zillions upon zillions of microbes lurking in the air, water and earth around us, waiting for a break in our defenses. Some are more vicious than others.

From what I’m hearing about Ebola, it’s one of the worst ever. It seems to be very contagious. And it is frequently fatal.

We should take care to avoid physical contact with anyone who has Ebola, and if we suspect we have Ebola coming on, we should run, not walk, to the nearest medical facility.

Perhaps most important, health care professionals must be especially meticulous in observing safety protocols.

Having conceded all this, I still think Chris Christie and Andrew Cuomo are overreacting when they impose involuntary quarantines on health care volunteers entering to their states from Ebola afflicted areas.

And, as usual, Christie, that big, fat bully, is being especially heavy handed.

Always on the alert for a chance to show off, the New Jersey governor had nurse Kaci Hickox forcibly detained on her return from a volunteer assignment in West Africa.  According to news reports, she was confined in a kind of tent outside a New Jersey health center.

Not surprisingly, Nurse Hickox (photo above) was mad as hell and has hired a lawyer. I expect she will sue Christie and his minions, and I hope she gets a huge award from the jury.

Besieged by protests, Christie was obliged to allow the young nurse to return to her home in Maine, where she is supposed to submit to some kind of house arrest. She is reportedly refusing to do any such thing.

We’ll see what happens next. The “authorities’ will slap her in irons and toss her in a dungeon, you think? Perhaps not. Despite the best efforts of Republican politicians, this is still America and we are still not back in the Middle Ages.

Now, Cuomo is sort of backing down, according to reports. He is already suffering political fallout from some shady deal he was involved in, and he can’t afford to lose any more public support.

Christie, on the other hand, is unapologetic. His tough-guy political schtick is on full display.

“Whatever. Get in line,” he responded when told the nurse was planning to sue him. “I’ve been sued lots of times before. Get in line. I’m happy to take it on.”

This is a guy who aspires to be leader of the free world?

 

And the Winners Are?

Have you voted? Are you planning to vote? I bet most people who plan to vote have already cast their ballots in this dismal election – or at least know who they’re voting for. So why are the politicians still fund raising? What possible use could advertising be at this late stage of the game?

I know, I know, it’s all about “getting out the vote.” But tell me, if you didn’t plan to vote, could some stranger knocking on your door persuade you to change your mind?

I treat the political door knockers the same way I treat Jehovah’s Witnesses – politely but firmly.  Their influence on me is zero.

Could one more vitriolic “attack ad” get you riled up enough to actually cast a ballot when you weren’t planning to?

I suspect that by now most voters feel it’s all “spin,” anyway.

America voted for Hope and Change – twice.

For most Americans,  life is pretty much the same as it was. For a lot of Americans, the change has been for the worse. It’s hard to keep hoping.

Yes, I know, it’s not President Obama’s fault. He tried. He really did. And all things considered, he achieved some amazing results.

But, overall, the Republicans proved too strong for him – too rich, too determined, too cunning, too mean. And the Democrats – a lot of them, anyway – never had his back.

And, no, President Obama didn’t cause Ebola or ISIS or global warming or whatever. But with all that going on, you can’t expect voters to be in a good mood. Indeed, many Americans are ready to throw the President overboard like Jonah.

To me, this lead to a story in the Huffington Post sums up the spirit of the 2014 mid-term elections:

If there’s one person in New Hampshire less popular than President Barack Obama, it’s Republican Scott Brown.

This is not really a “popular” vote; it’s the election of the less unpopular. Apparently, America likes “none of the above.”

I wonder whether we have to wait until election day to know who wins, anyway. It doesn’t take long on election night for CNN or MSNBC to project the winner in a lot of races. Why can’t the same computers figure out the winners from the early ballots? Mix in some poll results and factor in various trends – you know, the way Chuck Todd does – and put us out of our misery.

Here we are, a few days away from Election Day, and our mailbox is full of campaign material. The TV reeks with insults and invocations. The pundits are in full voice.

Hey, guys! I already voted. And Sandra voted, too.

For us, the election is over. We’re waiting for the computers to project the winners.

 

Islam’s Hidden Face

full face veilMy brother Bill sent me an interesting email he got from a friend; it was titled “Islam is Not a Religion.” I don’t profess to know what a religion is but after reading the email I have to agree that Islam doesn’t seem to be like any religion that I recognize.

The email quotes Theologian Peter Hammond, who argues that:

Islam is not a religion, nor is it a cult. In its fullest form, it is a complete, total, 100% system of life. Islam has religious, legal, political, economic, social, and military components.

You might respond that America’s Religious Right shares this approach to Christianity. And cults like Scientology also attempt to dictate every aspect of your daily life.

But even the most extreme Christian or Scientologist stops far short of the goals that Islam establishes for its followers.

Yes, there are Christians who use their religion as a political platform. Yes, there are Christians who would – if they could – establish a theocracy in America.

But their efforts pale in comparison with the organized crusade that many Muslims are embarking upon around the globe. And it seems that this commitment to attaining political, social, judicial and political power is an integral element of Islam.

I hesitate to join any kind of religious crusade. I think we should all worry about the log in our own eye before pointing out the speck of dust in someone else’s eye.

Obviously, stirring up resentment and fear of Muslims is a frighteningly bad idea.

But we must be careful to protect our own liberties and defend ourselves against zealots of any kind.

If Islam is indeed a peaceful, non-threatening kind of faith, then we should welcome followers of that faith. But if it is a mask for a political power grab, we should be on our guard.

How do we tell the difference?

I guess “if it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck and looks like a duck, it’s a duck.”

After reading what Dr. Hammond has to say, I can only pray that the governments of the free world will be watchful. They could possibly be clasping a serpent to their bosom.

And as Dr. Hammond points out:

Today’s 1.5 billion Muslims make up 22% of the world’s population. But their birth rates dwarf the birth rates of Christians, Hindus, Buddhists, Jews, and all other believers. Muslims will exceed 50% of the world’s population by the end of this century.

I won’t be around to see what happens then, but I worry for those who will be.

Click for Snopes on Dr. Hammond.

 

Changing Times

We voted, Sandra and I. We went to the Larry Jackson Library and filled  in the ovals next to the names of all the Democratic candidates. At least, Sandra did. I made an exception and voted for one Republican – Adam Putnam, the commissioner of agriculture. I’ve known about Putnam for years. He seems to belong to that rare breed – decent Republicans.

As we strolled into the library this morning, I was struck by the difference from six years ago, when we also voted early. Then there was a long waiting line. We waited about two hours to vote. Today there were just a few stragglers. We were in and out in minutes.

I didn’t see any young voters. And the only visible minorities were the ones handing out the ballots.

What’s going on?

Six years ago, there was a thrill in the air as young voters and minorities seized the opportunity of a lifetime – the chance to elect America’s first black president.

Today, the glow is gone.

President Obama was elected and reelected, but his allure has slipped away. His approval ratings are in the dumps. Like the apostle Peter in the Bible story, Democratic candidates are insisting they never heard of the guy.

Later, at lunch in the Olive Garden, I asked the waitress if she was going to vote. She enthusiastically assured me she would. Yes, she agreed, young women like her have a lot at stake in this election.

Fox News co-host Kimberly Guilfoyle thinks young American women don’t deserve the opportunity to vote. On The Five Tuesday, Guilfoyle said young women should be “excused” from their civic duties so they can “go back on Tinder and Match.com.”

Young women don’t have the necessary “life experiences,” such as having kids and paying bills, she argued. “They’re like healthy and hot and running around without a care in the world.”

We’ll have to see how accurate that description is. It certainly did not fit our waitress, Brianna. She seemed quite mature and responsible.

I wonder – is  she the rule or the exception?

Young women like Brianna could be the Democrats’ last hope.

And the minorities?

Minorities don’t vote in midterms, the pundits say.  They might be right.

And the young male voters?

My bet is that they’re sitting this one out.

National employment figures may look encouraging, but youth unemployment is high, especially among minorities.

The economy has improved, officials report, but the rich are still getting richer, the poor are still going hungry. The Republicans have managed to impose their will despite the President’s early popularity.

Hope and change have proved elusive. To the vast majority of Americans, anyway.

If the Democratic base is disenchanted, as they very well could be, the Republicans will sweep the polls, capturing both the House and the Senate.

Pray that isn’t happening.

The next two years would be a nightmare for America – and probably for the rest of the free world.

Click for Guilfoyle’s remarks.

Click for a different early voting experience.

 

Terror in Canada’s Mosaic

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Racism and religious intolerance are rampant throughout the world, yet when I lived in Canada, I saw just about every race and religion on earth living in harmony side by side.

I saw a lot of ethnic pride. Folklore and traditional customs were encouraged. In Toronto, where I lived the longest, immigrants from various parts of the world tended to settle near their friends, creating “Little Italy,” “Chinatown” and so on.

It was a cultural mosaic, rather than a melting pot.

(I seem to recall that in Toronto’s Chinatown, the street signs were in both English and Chinese. And I remember Italian signs in shop windows along Eglinton Avenue… But it was so long ago, and I am getting old. My memory is not what it used to be.)

Canadians are encouraged to be proud of their heritage but they are forbidden to deride their neighbor’s. Expressions of racist venom are outlawed, for example.

During the two decades I spent in that country, I saw Canada evolve into a model of ethnic tolerance. And with this ethnic tolerance came a willingness to accept religious diversity, even to the extent of accommodating Islamic prayer rooms at schools in Ontario.

Against such a background, yesterday’s assassination of a Canadian soldier and the subsequent assault on Parliament – apparently by a Muslim radical – leaves me bewildered.

It was the first such attack in Canadian history, and it raises some troubling questions.

Why on earth would a Canadian turn on his government like that? What “oppression” could he possibly cite as a motive?

What does this say about the Muslim religion? Is it possible to include it among other faiths without fearing violence from its followers? Can it be part of a tolerant ethnic and religious mosaic?

It is a question peaceful Muslims must ponder, and a troubling challenge for inclusive cultures like the benign one in Canada.

Click for more on the shooter.

Click for more on the terror attack in Canada.

Click for Muslim reaction in Canada.

Click for reaction in Britain.

 

Living in Fear

screamWhat is your greatest fear? Dying? Getting seriously ill? Losing a loved one?

If those are the fears that keep you awake at night, you are not a typical American. According to the first-ever national study of such matters, the typical American’s greatest fear is walking alone at night.

Really?

Even with that AK-47 slung over their shoulder? Or that .50-caliber Glock in their waist band?

It’s crime that scares Americans most, the study showed. Most Americans think violent crime is rising, even though the evidence shows crime rates are falling.

Salon.com quotes Dr. Edward Day, a sociologist who worked on the project, as saying:

What we found when we asked a series of questions pertaining to fears of various crimes is that a majority of Americans not only fear crimes such as child abduction, gang violence, sexual assault and others; but they also believe these crimes (and others) have increased over the past 20 years.

It must be the TV. Every second show is about cops and robbers; the news is full of scary stories about some young woman being abducted, raped and murdered.

The researchers found that the most fearful people shared “a high level of watching television, specifically talk and true-crime shows.”

But newspapers relish lurid crime stories, too.

Sandra reads the local paper every morning, and she makes sure our doors are always locked – day and night.

Americans are also terrified of having their identities stolen, the study showed. “Safety on the Internet” was another top-three worry (makes you wonder what they’re up to on the web, doesn’t it?)

“Being the victim of a mass/random shooting” was in fourth place, just ahead of “public speaking.”

Becoming ill wasn’t among the nation’s top fears, and barely made it into the top-five “concerns.”

Dying didn’t show up at all.

I suppose death isn’t so frightening if it isn’t the result of violent crime. As Kenny Rogers put it:

The best that you can hope for is to die in your sleep.

 Click for the Salon.com article.

 

No, It’s Not Ebola

ebola

 

Your head is throbbing, you’ve got chills, your muscles ache, you feel weak and wobbly… OMG! Could it be?

Relax. It’s probably not Ebola. You’re far more likely to have the flu. Didn’t get vaccinated, did you? Kept putting it off. And now you’re paying the price.

The annual flu season is upon us, and the early symptoms of flu are much the same as those of the dreaded killer disease that has so many Americans in a panic.

According to a Reuters story, hospitals and doctors are bracing for a flood of patients who fear Ebola but  actually have a more familiar ailment – the flu.

According to the story:

Already dozens of false Ebola scares have been reported by hospitals even though the virus is spread through direct contact with bodily fluids from an infected person and the virus is not airborne.

What part of “direct contact with bodily fluids” don’t people understand?

Reuters reports that “fear often trumps common sense, even though people should be far more worried about the flu given the toll it is known to take every year, doctors said.”

Of course the flu is nothing to sneeze at. It can kill, too.

Here’s a scary warning from the Reuters story:

You’re far more likely to die at this point from not receiving a flu shot,” said Dr. Sampson Davis, an emergency medicine physician at Meadowlands Hospital Center in Secaucus, New Jersey.

So, how about it? Most drug stores are offering free flu shots. It might be a good idea to tear yourself away from those merchants of doom on your TV screen and go get yourself inoculated.

And if it’s too late for you, if you already are coming down with the flu, you know he drill… rest in bed, take two aspirins, drink plenty of liquids…

Click for the Reuters story.

Click for more on the Ebola panic.

 

Facing the Truth

Education-Fail

 

I have been living in a world of make believe for the past six years, and I suspect you have been too. In that rosy world, racism and bigotry were blights of the past, and people had become enlightened and were now able to tolerate deviation from the “norm,” so much so that they were able to walk a mile in one another’s shoes.

Yes, I was misled. I was misled by the election and reelection of America’s first black President.

As I read the reports of disrespect and hostility towards Barack Obama, I wonder how I could ever have been so sanguine as to expect anything else.

America was not ready for Barack Obama. The world was not ready for Barack Obama.

The backlash his election has created is overwhelming. At home, his approval rating is at its lowest ebb ever, people are walking out of political rallies when he speaks, Democratic candidates are distancing themselves from him in their desperation to get elected.

Abroad, his influence is dwindling, his policies – driven by humanitarianism and tolerance – are failing, his legacy is being tainted.

That’s the picture I get from the news, anyway. It could be slanted. I suspect it is.

There’s so much “spin” in the news that the truth is impossible to discern. But “where there’s smoke, there’s fire.” There’s an underlying reality there somewhere, and it’s an ugly reality.

While there are many enlightened and progressive people in America – and in the rest of the world – there are more people who are stuck in the primitive past, where tribalism, fetishism, ignorance and brutality reign supreme. Many more.

Yes even in America. In the world’s leading democracy.

I had hoped for better. I was wrong.

I see daily report of civil rights violations by police and regressive civil rights rulings by the courts. I see increasing evidence  of the rise of a tide of white supremacy, as xenophobia, tribalism and just plain ignorance proliferate throughout the land.

A predatory philosophy of exclusiveness and greed becomes ever more acceptable as America’s white majority closes its ranks against change, as America’s aging turn on the young, as the rich turn on the poor, as the strong turn on the weak.

What am I to make of this horrible epiphany? What is to blame for the bleak picture that I see?

Is it the fault of the education system? The media? The churches? Or is humanity simply beyond redemption?

You tell me.

Click for more on the threat to America’s freedoms.

Click for more on the erosion of civil rights.

 

 

Is Rick Scott OK?

I mean is he all right mentally? He doesn’t sound like it. First, there was his delay in taking the stage for the opening of Wednesday night’s debate because Charlie Crist had a small fan (the electric kind, not the human kind) at his podium. Then there was Scott’s rambling closing statement.

It was not just incoherent, it was imbecilic.

If you didn’t catch the debate, you might want to click on the link at the bottom of this blog and read what the Daily Kos had to say about Scott’s closing message.

Surely, this guy isn’t mentally equipped to be Florida’s governor?

I knew he was a shady character who paid a fine of more than a billion dollars for Medicare fraud, but I didn’t know what a fog he’s in.

Even if you don’t agree that he is mentally not up to the task of governing, I would like to remind you of the miserable job he has done so far. Who could possibly want four more years of this?

I am appalled at those recent stand-your-ground murders, for one thing.

And if my kids or grandkids were still in school, I would be fuming over the way Scott is starving educational institutions for funds. But that’s not as disgraceful as his cuts to essential social services, such as rape crisis centers and agencies for physically and mentally disabled children.

Budget cuts to the Department of Children and Families have resulted in the deaths of at least 40 children!

Layoffs and budget cuts in social services were supposed to make up for the loss of revenue resulting from Scott’s reduction of corporate taxes, which he expected would bring employers flocking to Florida.

Obviously this tactic hasn’t worked.

Remember how he promised to create 1.7 million jobs by cutting corporate taxes, etc.? Well, he hasn’t. At Wednesday’s debate. he was bragging about creating 700,000 jobs by 2017, even though economists have pointed out that a million jobs should be added in Florida by then regardless of who is governor.

His sorry legacy also includes vetoing funds for wildlife preservation, and slashing the budgets for whooping cough vaccine, legal assistance to the poor, at-risk pregnant women, needy senior citizens, the homeless …

Yet he was able to find $600,000 to redecorate the governor’s mansion and more than $400,000 for a state business logo.

The case against Scott goes on and on, and you can read more by clicking on this link:

233 Non-Partisan Reasons Why Rick Scott Must Go

 Click for the Daily Kos report.

Click for more on the debate.